London 2014: Major Art

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Henri Matisse, The Snail 1953

(c) Succession Henri Matisse/DACS 2013

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Henri Matisse, The Snail 1953
Rafael Gomezbarros, Casa Tomada
Serpentine Gallery Pavilion
Kenneth Clark at the National Gallery
Allen Jones, First Step, 1966
Dennis Hopper: Leon Bing, 1966


Omer Ali looks at the best major art exhibitions, shows and fairs taking place in London from July to December 2014.

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Blockbuster shows


The biggest shows of summer and autumn could hardly offer a greater contrast - from Rembrandt, through Constable and Turner, to Matisse and Malevich, and even a Lego blockbuster. Rembrandt: The Late Works, at the National Gallery from 15th October, is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see around 40 paintings, 20 drawings and 30 prints covering the last 30 years of the Dutch master's life. Organised in collaboration with Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum, the show centres on the 17th-century artist's poignant Self Portrait at the Age of 63 alongside other major works loaned from the US and the Netherlands.

Meanwhile, from 16th July, Tate Modern presents the first major retrospective in 25 years of Russian Suprematist Kasimir Malevich, whose abstract, geometrical work was the artist's response to the First World War, through the October Revolution to the rise of Stalinism.

Before that, there's the chance to catch Matisse: The Cut-Outs at Tate Modern until 7th September. This vibrant exhibition showcases the colourful art the French painter created by cutting shapes from painted paper in the last 17 years of his life, as his health declined and he was largely wheelchair-bound. The show features two of the last paintings he ever made, and many large cut-outs, including a room dedicated exclusively to the Blue Nudes and The Snail, a perennial favourite among visitors to the gallery.

And for a real block-buster look no further than The Art of the Brick, in which US artist Nathan Sawaya has assembled around 75 sculptures made of Lego bricks, including a 20ft T-Rex, plus versions of the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. It's at Brick Lane's Old Truman Brewery from 26th September.


British favourites


Then there are celebrations of some of Britain's favourite artists. Tate Britain has Late Turner - Painting Set Free (from 10th September), which brings together many of the works the British artist produced in the 16 years up to his death in 1851, which were controversial for his distinctive brushstrokes and innovative techniques. The V&A's Constable: The Making of a Master, from 20th September, looks at how Turner's great contemporary John Constable created some of his most-loved and best-known paintings, including The Haywain.

Anarchy & Beauty: William Morris and His Legacy at the National Portrait Gallery from 16th October, explores the life and ideas of the great Victorian artist, writer and visionary thinker, featuring many objects that will be on public display for the first time. An extensive exhibition in the same gallery from 10th July to 26th October celebrates writer Virginia Woolf through portraits and rare artefacts.


South American art


If there's any connection among the disparate displays of late 2014, it's art from South America. Radical Geometry: Modern Art of South America - in the Royal Academy's Sackler Wing from 5th July - explores work produced during a 50-year period starting in the 1930s as artists including Hélio Oiticica challenged contemporary norms in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Venezuela with joyous, abstract works.

The story is brought bang up to date at the Saatchi Gallery in Pangaea - until 2nd November - which features 16 contemporary artists from Africa and South America, many of them little known outside their homelands (the show's title comes from the name of the prehistoric land mass that formed these two continents). Highlights include Colombian Rafael Gómezbarros' installation featuring giant ants and Brazilian artist Antonio Malta Campos' bold paintings. Until 28th September it's accompanied by a recommended survey of contemporary US abstract art, simply called Abstract America Today.


Summer highlights


One of the highlights of the arts calendar in the capital is the Serpentine Gallery's annual Pavilion commission: this year's temporary structure - the 14th - is a shell-like, translucent edifice standing on large, quarry stones, designed by Chilean architect Smiljan Radic. During its four-month stay in front of the gallery in Kensington Gardens, the Pavilion will host a series of eight Park Night events, showcasing new commissions from emerging artists as well as a mix of film, poetry and music - plus there's a café on site.

The gallery itself hosts the work of Oxford-born video artist Ed Atkins, whose unsettling installations heavily utilise text. Even more unnerving could be said to be the work of Marina Abramovic, whose latest performance piece is 512 Hours, representing the 10am-6pm appearances she's putting in, six days a week until the show ends on 25th August. Both exhibitions are free; expect the latter to be busy - entry is limited as visitors are incorporated into the experience.

Until 7th September, the Hayward's Future examines how figurative sculpture has been reinvented over the past 25 years through the work of more than 20 other leading international artists including Katharina Fritsch, Thomas Hirschhorn, Jeff Koons, and Yinka Shonibare. And from 9th July to 14th September, the Whitechapel hosts 50 years of work by Italian artist Giulio Paolini, whose installations of windows, canvases and statuary pay tribute to masters as varied as Chardin and Velázquez.

The Renaissance fever that dominated London's spring comes to a close when Building the Picture: Architecture in Italian Renaissance Painting ends at the National Gallery on 21st September. The gallery's idiosyncratic examination of colour in art, from the Renaissance to the Impressionists, Making Colour, ends 7th September.


Tate Britain


Early summer sees Tate Britain pay tribute to art historian and broadcaster Kenneth Clark with an exhibition of work by many of the artists he supported, including Henry Moore, John Piper and the Bloomsbury Group (until 10th August), while its celebration of British Folk Art continues to 7th September. It features an unholy mix of the everyday, including leather Toby jugs, fairground-ride carousel horses, shop signs and brightly painted ships' figureheads.That's followed by the 30th edition of the annual Turner Prize (from 30th September). This year's shortlist features filmmakers Duncan Campbell and James Richards, performance artist Tris Vonna-Michell and printmaker Ciara Phillips, and will no doubt prove as controversial as ever.


The Royal Academy


Another of the season's regular, big events is the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition. Held every year since 1769, the world's biggest open-submission art show displays around 1,200 works by established and emerging artists - this year coordinator Hughie O'Donoghue led the committee in choosing the best from 12,000 submissions. There are treats from new academicians Thomas Heatherwick, whose design studio is behind London's new Routemasters, and Bob and Roberta Smith, plus a black-and-white room curated by artist Cornelia Parker.

When they move on, the Royal Academy (RA) devotes its main galleries to Anselm Kiefer (from 27th September to 14th December), an honorary academician. The first major retrospective in the UK of the contemporary German artist covers 40 years of work, from Kiefer's student days up to his recent, giant installations, and the show will feature pieces specially conceived for the RA. There's also a comprehensive look at British Pop artist Allen Jones' work over 40 years, from his eye-catching sculptures of the late 1960s to the present day (from 13th November).

And, from 25th October, the RA presents the first comprehensive UK show dedicated to a contemporary of Titian, Bergamo artist Giovanni Battista Moroni. Seen as one of the greatest portraitists of all time, the show highlights the humanity he captured in everyday people, as well as his less well-known religious painting.




Portraiture is the focus of Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album (until 19th October), which features more than 400 photos by the Hollywood actor and director. The show in the RA's Burlington Gardens premises features iconic shots of Andy Warhol and Paul Newman, among others, alongside pictures of important historical events.

The V&A promises Horst: Photographer of Style will be the "definitive retrospective" of the 20th-century, German-American photographer (from 6th September). He produced startling portraits - Marlene Dietrich was one subject - surreal still lifes and fashion shoots (Vogue was a staple client), and this show will also include his evocative documentary pictures of the Middle East.Cairo to Constantinople at the Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace, is a wonderful opportunity to experience the region in an earlier era. In 1862, Queen Victoria commissioned leading photographer Francis Bedford to accompany her son, Edward, Prince of Wales, on a four-month tour of Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon and Syria. The photographs caused a sensation on the expedition's return and many have not been exhibited since that time; they go on show 7th November. The Photographers' Gallery in central London has a crowded programme, starting with a show of recent graduates' work, Freshfaced and Wildeyed, from 1st-13th July. Then, from 25th July, Lorenzo Vitturi exhibits his remarkable still lifes inspired by Dalston's Ridley Road Market and, from the same date, the gallery presents what promises to be a captivating survey of colour photography in Russia. Primrose includes 'postcard' landscapes and portraits, Soviet propaganda, and avant-garde and reportage photography, and contains works by renowned photographers and artists such as Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky, Alexander Rodchenko and Boris Mikhailov. Both shows close 19th October.

The National Portrait Gallery hosts the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2014 (from 13th November), which is always worth a visit for a chance to see the different approaches of current exponents of the form. Meanwhile, Tate Modern takes an idiosyncratic peak through the lens for Conflict, Time, Photography (from 26th November), which shows how we've photographed battlefields and other sites of conflict through the centuries, and, from 25th September, the Barbican brings together 18 photographers from the 1930s to the present day to examine the way we look at contemporary architecture around the globe. Featured photographers in the wide-ranging Constructing Worlds exhibition include Berenice Abbott, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Struth and Hiroshi Sugimoto. It's the sort of eclectic approach that typifies autumn.


Art fairs


One of the capital's biggest art fairs, Frieze London, pitches camp once more in Regent's Park from 15th-18th October (there's an invitation-only preview day on 14th October), bringing together 160 of the world's leading contemporary art galleries, plus a new showcase for performance art: Live. For the third year running it's accompanied by Frieze Masters, which boasts a broader art remit.To get even closer to the artists, head to The Other Art Fair (16th-19th October, at the Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane), which gives buyers the chance to purchase directly from more than 100 unrepresented artists. At the same time, PAD in Mayfair's Berkeley Square, celebrates all forms of art and design from the late 19th century on.

If your budget is a little tighter, the Affordable Art Fair Battersea later in the month (from 23th-26th October) is a great chance to pick up something decorative in a good atmosphere. One month earlier, the 20/21 British Art Fair (10th-14th September) offers an equally welcoming selection of post-war British art at Kensington's Royal College of Art.

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